Risk-loving women 'hungry for sex'

Women with an appetite for risk may also be hungry for sex, a study suggests.

Scientists found that risk-taking women have unusually high testosterone levels.

The hormone fuels sex-drive in both men and women and is associated with competitiveness and dominance.

Prior research has shown that high levels of testosterone are also linked to risky behaviour such as gambling or excessive drinking.

Scientists in the US measured the amount of testosterone in saliva samples taken from 500 male and female MBA business students at the University of Chicago.

Participants in the study were asked to play a computer game that evaluated their attitude towards risk.

A series of questions allowed them to choose between a guaranteed monetary reward or a risky lottery with a higher potential pay-out.

The students had to decide repeatedly whether to play safe for less or gamble on a bigger win.

Women who were most willing to take risks were also found to have the highest levels of testosterone, but this was not true of men.

However, men and women with the same levels of the hormone shared a similar attitude to risk.

The link between risk-taking and testosterone also had a bearing on the students' career choices after graduation.

Testosterone-driven individuals who liked to gamble went on to choose riskier careers in finance.

"This is the first study showing that gender differences in financial risk aversion have a biological basis, and that differences in testosterone levels between individuals can affect important aspects of economic behaviour and career decisions," said Professor Dario Maestripieri, one of the study leaders.

In general, women are known to be more risk-averse than men when it comes to financial decision making. Among the students taking part in the study, 36 per cent of the women chose high-risk financial careers such as investment banking or trading compared with 57 per cent of the men.

Overall, male participants displayed lower risk-aversion than their female counterparts and also had significantly higher levels of salivary testosterone.

The findings are published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Professor Luigi Zingales said: "This study has significant implications for how the effects of testosterone could impact actual risk-taking in financial markets, because many of these students will go on to become major players in the financial world.

"Furthermore, it could shed some light on gender differences in career choices. Future studies should further explore the mechanisms through which testosterone affects the brain."

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